Renovating An Older Home? 5 Things To Consider.

Out with the old. In with the new?

Living in the Northeast I am privileged to be able to experience living amongst some of the most beautiful older style homes in the United States. From beautiful antique colonial homes, stately Greek Revival beauties with their magnificent woodwork and elaborate winding staircases to the 1920’s era English tutor homes, there is nothing like the architecture of an older home. However, renovating one of these stately homes can present numerous challenges. Whoever is renovating an older home must understand the unique challenges that are involved with this type of renovation.

Renovating An Older Home? 5 Things To Consider

1. Design your renovated space skillfully and carefully.

A newly renovated area should be designed so it seamlessly flows with the architecture of your home. For instance, a kitchen or bathroom renovation can certainly have all of the modern conveniences and features of a newly designed and renovated space but certain architectural elements should tie it into the rest of the house, so it doesn’t look out of place in the home.

Update plumbing and hire for craftsmanship

2. Plan on updating all of your systems: plumbing, electrical, and heating.

Often the systems in an older home have only been partially updated if at all. When renovating to create a new kitchen or bathroom allow the extra time and cost of updating or replacing these systems. This is often required during an extensive renovation by the local building codes. This is always the best to do all of this work since walls will be opened up for easier access to wiring and plumbing. Also, your new design will most likely have some floor plan changes which will require moving electrical and plumbing anyway.

3. Older craftsmanship can be expensive to replicate.

One of the biggest benefits of living in an older home is the incredible old molding and woodwork that is sometimes still intact. Often novice renovators strip out the beautiful craftsmanship contained in these older homes, sometimes regretting it later. The best renovations happen when the original architecture of the home is honored when creating a new design for the space. That beautiful crown molding in your older home might have been made differently than what is easily available today. It certainly can be replicated by skilled craftsman, but it might take a little more time and money to fabricate matching moldings or trim.

4. Hire a pro for any wall work.

Many of the older homes have walls that were done with the old lathe and plaster method. Narrow strips of rough thin wood were stacked up and down the walls and then a plaster mixture (sometimes made with horses hair for reinforcement ) was applied, plaster oozed between the strips to which helped hold the plaster to the wall. So when repairing old plaster walls, it’s never as simple as a quick patch like you would do on a sheetrock wall. Locate someone who knows how to properly repair horsehair plastery. Many times the plaster is in such disrepair or will start crumbling when you do try and make a repair that competitive skimming or removal of the plaster must be done. Wall work in these older homes is best left to professionals as DIY repairs often make the issues worse, so when a professional finally is brought in to correct the issue, it is an even bigger job.

5. Assess the flooring.

The flooring in an older home can either be your biggest asset or your biggest disappointment. Sometimes one of the most exciting moments in renovating an older home might be the discovery of beautiful wood floors conceals and protected by wall to wall carpet. In which case with the proper sanding and finishing, you end up with the most beautiful hardwood floor, sometimes even more beautiful than the newer hardwood floors available today. I was lucky with this in my own home, a 1920 era Tudor, under the old carpet revealed the most beautiful white oak flooring, an older species of white oak flooring with unique coloration. Once several hundred carpet tacks were removed and proper sanding and finishing were completed by my crew, I now have gleaming hardwood flooring that is very unique throughout this home. This was not the case throughout my former home, a colonial home from the 1700s. Each room’s floors had to be accessed carefully. Sometimes old carpet, tile, or vinyl flooring was installed in these homes over existing wood flooring, but floors might have been glued or mortared directly to the wood flooring in some cases making it unsalvageable. As a pro who has designed and renovated numerous older homes, I will say that you have to assess some older floors as to whether or not they are worth salvaging. Of course, we want to save them all, but there are some instances when you have to be able to predict the best possible outcome for that individual floor to see whether the results will be worth the time and cost.

Renovating an older home involves a deeper level of commitment and skill because of all of the unique challenges that come along with it. When an older home is designed and renovated properly with professionals that regularly renovate older homes, the results can be magnificent.

Until Next Time,


Have floor access and hire a pro!

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